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Back to Basics: How to Live Sustainably in Egypt

August 16, 2021
c. The Travel Guy | Daily Travel Photos

We’re all experiencing an era of immense change, and, frankly, most of it is for the worse: masks have become man’s best friend over the past year, and the summers of outside fun are over thanks to cement-sinking heat.

Climate change has been in and out of the news near-daily over the past few years, but more so recently following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report released on 6 August which has served as an “up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system [by] bringing together the latest advances in climate science.” The BBC reports that this “landmark study” is a delineation of the increasing threat of climate change, and according to UN Secretary General António Guterres, this release marks a “code-red for humanity.”

Egypt is unfortunately one of the more vulnerable states battling climate change, as a result of its populous nature, its reliance on imports, and the fact 97 percent of its water is dependent on the Nile. So, whether it’s for the sake of energy security, water, food, or the poverty gap: it’s time to chat about the little steps everyone can take to make a difference.

c. Unknown | Blogger: Free Egyptian Bird

1. Go Local

Bourgeois food and glamorous visits to Gourmet aside, Egypt is home and heart to many farmers’ markets, on-the go carts of produce, and a ton of smiling faces. Shopping from local sources is a way to tap into the delicious underbelly that, for the most part, has become unfashionable for some.

Despite that, it’s worthy to note that Egypt exports plenty of fruit and vegetables, so perhaps it’s time to snatch some of that from a street vendor when possible. Beyond the simple factor of imports and exports, local shopping does plenty to lessen individual transport, plastic usage, and encourage mindful waste management. While local shops often find themselves in the jaws of market-wide competition, their tendency to stock less and focus more on quality provides them with an unmistakable edge – fresher produce.

Shopping locally is convenient, it stimulates the economy, and revitalizes domestic ecosystems – so why not?

c. James Forbes | UNSPLASH

2. Delivery Demons

Covid-19 is hard, as are most pandemics – but climate change is an equally dangerous, footnoted monster. Instead of scrolling endlessly and dialing up a fast-food joint last minute, it’s time to grab your mask, some of that trusty citrus-imbued hand sanitizer, and hit the streets walking!

Automobiles’ exhaust fumes are second only to airplanes when it comes to carbon emissions, and continue to be a leading cause of pollution here in Egypt. According to IQAir, in August of 2020, Greater Cairo hit record high levels, only later curbed by mandated nation-wide quarantine. A simple bike trip to a local burger or koshary spot might be the best thing you do today; grab and go, don’t click and consume.

c. Derick Anies | UNSPLASH

3. Get connected – without the Digital Trash

Do you forget to take out your trash? Probably on occasion, but never forever. Digital waste is very much a thing, and all those emails, texts, accounts that that’ve been long since abandoned leave a bigger carbon footprint than anyone realizes. This digital baggage is hosted on thousands upon thousands of servers that need space, drain energy, and contribute to some detrimental greenhouse gasses. Back in March of 2020, Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad, encouraged Egyptians to explore applications like E-Tadweer Misr as a way to recycle e-waste across the country.

It might be a good idea to delete those unused Google Drive albums and idle social media accounts sooner rather than later.

c. Fernand De Canne | UNSPLASH

4. Fast-Fashion needs to Slow Down

Fast-fashion outlets – those quick and easy stores with plenty of turnover and chatty retail workers – aren’t the greatest. The idea of cheap, easily discarded clothing has been in the works for years, but the amount of waste and labour needed to produce that one shirt you’ll be tossing out next season? Immense. Even Greta Thunberg’s convinced that big-wig fashion companies claiming to be sustainable are almost always “greenwashing.”

But where there’s a will there’s a way – and Egypt is home to some of the most unique seamstresses and tailors you can find. Beyond the handmade, it’s worth remembering that locality includes Egyptian-run outlets, thrift stores, and budding start-ups that provide equal quality and style; many of upcoming initiatives combine foreign-domestic aesthetics, organic material, and plenty of skill that is certainly worth supporting.

Bringing big unethical and unsustainable brands down will bring the temperature down a notch, too.

c. Lars Plougmann | Flickr

5. Bigger the industry, bigger the change

Despite small, helpful lifestyle changes, there’s still the case of larger conglomerates wreaking havoc in their own particular industries. It’s difficult to shame someone for a 10 minute shower while still supporting oil companies as they ravage the Arctic. Boycotting, while it may feel small, is the first of many steps that change the course of industries.

Choosing where to shop, who to support, and what to consume oftentimes is a decisive factor on a person’s carbon footprint. From switching out support for Shell with the desire to cycle more often, or ditching Unilever products for handmade, local soaps: it all helps – and it’s all worth doing. For the tech-savvy investors, you can also consider investing in more sustainable companies or funds, and avoid those with spotty environmental records.

c. El Gouna Hotels, under: Mushira Sabry

6. Don’t throw it out if it isn’t broken – and donate it if it is

A dialogue on climate change cannot exist without recycling. Though Egypt isn’t to the concept quite yet, many entrepreneurs have made it their sole aim to incentivize Egyptians to think about greener waste management.

One such start-up is Bekia: an initiative that will happily up-cycle people’s waste, and reward them for it with food utilities. Similarly, Go Green. continues to encourage recycling by offering up domestic wares and household items in exchange for the amount of waste donated. Such accessibility is nothing if not an opportunity to do good, feel good, and be good. Even the simplest changes, such as separating your trash, is a step in the right direction.

c. Ravi Sharma | UNSPLASH

7. Be an advocate for change

If the pen is mightier than the sword, it’s time to reevaluate social media’s capacity for social change. While many follow key figures in the fight against climate change – from entertaining and problematic Greenpeace campaigns to grand Twitter threads by Greta Thunberg – it’s important to realize our own potential as agents of change. In having access to the internet in an age of influence, each individual has a platform they can use to raise awareness and join in on the dialogue.

Slacktivism may get a bad rep – but when done right, still changes lives.

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